Handheld LIBS used to measure beryllium in nuclear waste

Diggity Geochemistry, Independent Studies, LIBS, News & Press

Publication: B.A. Crawford, D.M. Brigham, J.F. Lucchini, Technology Applicable to Remote Hazardous Constituents and Waste Stream Grouping, Los Alamos National Laboratory report, LA-UR-19-32751 (2019).


Handheld LIBS is relevant to identifying nuclear waste, simple to use in the field.

The Difficult Waste Team at Los Alamos National Laboratory, contractor to the United States Department of Energy, recently demonstrated the use of handheld LIBS analyzers in elemental characterization of radioactive wastes. In their report, “Technology Applicable to Remote Hazardous Constituents and Waste Stream Grouping,” they were specifically able to identify beryllium, an element of concern in nuclear waste storage.

For the study, the team collected and pelletized soil and sludge samples used as surrogates for nuclear waste matrices. For the initial LIBS analysis, they hoped to confirm the presence of beryllium carbide, which had been identified as a reactant in a secondary chemical reaction by generating a significant amount of methane when heated in the presence of acid, base, or water.

LIBS, or laser induced breakdown spectroscopy, has been used for more than 30 years as a laboratory technique, capable of analyzing any element in the periodic table. Recently, the technique has been miniaturized into a handheld device capable of identifying any element.

Despite a very low amount of beryllium in the samples (0.002 wt. %), the SciAps Z-300 LIBS used in the study could accurately and rapidly detect it, in situ.

Read the report: https://permalink.lanl.gov/object/tr?what=info:lanl-repo/lareport/LA-UR-19-32751

Citing the high potential for handheld LIBS to identify remaining radioactive waste, Los Alamos National Laboratory is recommending handheld LIBS for future in situ analysis and instantaneously accurate and reliable information on the elemental composition of solid waste (powders included).

Check out SciAps LIBS Academic Advancement Program…

We frequently loan out HH LIBS and XRF units for a few weeks or a month to academic researchers based in Canada or the United States, so that they can perform a study or field analysis locally or globally. LIBS is often a preferred technique, especially for students, since operators do not have to deal with the regulatory complexities of X-ray fluorescence analyzers. Contact us (academic@sciaps.com) with a brief description of what you want to measure. The goal is to raise awareness of the amazing world of applications available to handheld elemental analysis.

The SciAps Z features the most advanced LIBS technology of any handheld:

  • The most powerful laser, operating at 5-6 mJ/pulse, up to 50 Hz rep rate, Class 3B 1064nm wavelength.
  • The spectrometer range of 190 nm out to 950 nm delivers full periodic table coverage.
  • Optional argon gas purge yields better limits of detection for many elements compared to air-based analysis.
  • No X-rays means no travel restrictions or licensing headaches.

Have an application? We can run samples in our materials laboratory, or meet you online with an analyzer for a brief feasibility study. Contact us.

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